Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms

Month: August 2023

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 3

In part 1 of this series we see Jesus teaching on the importance of baptism to salvation. In part 2 we see the apostles response to this teaching and how they implemented it on the day of Pentecost, in Samaria and in the house of Cornelius. In this part we’re going to look at other parts of Acts – because by seeing what the apostles did we can understand what they wrote much better. What did they DO? Later on we’ll read more of what they WROTE.

Following his ministry in Samaria and the coming of Peter and John to open the door of the church to that people, we find Philip sent on a mission by God’s Holy Spirit. In Acts 8 we find him walking down the road and encountering an Ethiopian official who had been to Jerusalem to worship. He hears the official reading, is prompted by the Spirit to join the car and asks, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” to which the official answers “How can I unless someone guides me?” So he invites Philip to ride. Here’s how Luke describes what follows in Acts chapter 8:

Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will describe his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.

The eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or someone else?” Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.

So, exactly WHAT did Philip explain to him? We don’t know ALL that he told him, but we can tell how much importance was placed on a very telling bit doctrine – by the immediate response to the message by the Ethiopian.

As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?” Why this response? Why not “Please guide me in the Sinner’s Prayer”? (something not found in scripture, by the way). This question gives us a very clear picture of the message that Philip had been sharing with this man. The importance of becoming a disciple of Jesus and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (just as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost). History tells us that the church started in Ethiopia by this man is still in existence to this day.

In chapter 9 we find Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus to persecute the church. He is confronted on the road by Jesus, finds out he’s blinded and goes to Damascus where God sends a man named Ananias to visit him. Luke tells us, “Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” Before eating, drinking or anything else – he was baptized.

Later on Saul himself tells us ““Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

“be baptized and wash away your sins”… that doesn’t fit into popular Christianity’s denial of the importance of Baptism, but fits perfectly with the Bible’s assertion as to the purpose of baptism.

We’ve already looked at Cornelius and his household in Acts chapter 10. In Acts 11 Peter defends his actions in Cornelius’ house by explaining “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?” When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.”

In chapter 16 of Acts we meet Lydia in the city of Philippi. She and her household are immediately baptized upon her response to Paul’s message. She urges them to stay with her if they believe that she is indeed a believer, so they do. They stay for a while until Paul becomes weary of hearing a demon possessed slave girl yelling “These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God.” (it is my belief that what irked him is that Jesus is THE way, not A way of salvation). He cast out the demon, the slave girl’s proprietors were angered by this and had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison where they sing praises to God instead of cursing their luck, their captors and their accusers as might be expected.

There is an earthquake and the doors of the prison swing open. The jailer is about to kill himself because he believes the prisoners have escaped – and now we come to one of the classic passages where context is ignored by popular Christianity.

But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because we’re all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. He escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.

That’s right – in the same hour of the night that he heard the message of salvation, he and his whole household were baptized. Why, if baptism is not necessary to salvation?

In chapter 19 of Acts we find the final instance in which it is recorded that the Holy Spirit was sent upon a group of people prior to, upon, or following their baptism.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” “No,” they told him, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Into what then were you baptized?” he asked them. “Into John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.

Note that this is not a new group. That is, the Jews recognized Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans, with the Gentiles making up the largest group of people. So this has nothing to do with “the keys to the kingdom”. What we see here is a clarification between the “baptism of John” and “baptism into the name of Jesus”. John said “believe in the One Who comes after me”. Upon believing they were baptized and then received the Holy Spirit.

So as we follow the apostles around, what do we see? Baptism is an integral part of the message. We see it in the response of the Ethiopian, the Samaritans, Cornelius and his household, Lydia, the jailer and his household and the disciples of John the Baptist. This is what the actions of the apostles tell us – baptism is central to the Gospel message.

To be continued…

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 2

In the first part of this series, we took a look at what Jesus Himself had to say about baptism, as well as looking at the classic objection to baptism – “the thief on the cross”. In this part we’ll look at what the apostles DID in response to what Jesus taught.

On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and the apostles preached to the gathered celebrants of the festival. They flat out told them “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” This cut them to the core (they were guilty of killing the very Messiah they’d been looking for for generations!) and they asked “What should we do?” (Acts 2:36-37)

Peter’s answer to that simple question is telling. “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, quit shunning God’s way and be immersed FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS, and you’ll receive God’s Holy Spirit as a gift! But it gets even better!

“For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:37-39) In Acts 17:30 we see that God is calling all men everywhere to repent! In other words, this promise made on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. is a promise that extends around the globe and through time, reaching down to us to this very day.

So the church of Jesus the Christ was established in response to His commission in Matthew 28 and in accordance to His assertion in John 3 that we must be born of the water and the Spirit if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. About 3,000 people heard, believed and obeyed on that day. (Acts 2:41)

So let’s keep following the apostles as history unfolds for our consideration and edification. The first few chapters of Acts relate Jesus’ return to the Father’s right hand, the coming of His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the early growth and struggle of the young church. In chapter 8 of Acts we follow Philip up to Samaria and witness him preaching, performing miracles and baptizing people. Yet it wasn’t until Peter and John went up to Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit. What’s going on?

Another clue to what’s occurring during these early days of the church is found a couple chapters later in Acts 10. A centurion named Cornelius sends for Peter after an angel commands him to do so. Meanwhile God gives Peter a vision indicating that “what God has purified do not call unclean” and that he is to go with the men that are about to arrive. He goes with them, prevents Cornelius from worshipping him when he arrives, preaches the Gospel message and is astounded when God poured out His Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family. After all – these were “unclean gentiles!” Peter’s response is important. ““Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10: 47). Remember, Peter’s probably still processing the whole “Arise, kill and eat” vision in combination with God’s command to go and enter the house of a gentile. And those with him hadn’t had the vision, but now they witness these “unclean” people receiving a unique gift from God. What’s going on? Let’s step back in recent (to these events) history and take a look at a special commission given by Jesus to Peter.

One of the most misunderstood passages of the Bible is found in Matthew 16. Let’s take a look at verses 15-19 and think about it in the light of events that are in the future (future in regards to Matthew 16, not in our future).

“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”

“You are Peter (petros)” says Jesus. Peter meaning a rock, a stone, something you can lift and carry. “On this rock (petra) I will build my church”. Rock meaning a mass of stone, bedrock, unmovable foundation. The church was not built on Peter, it was built on his assertion – that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. THAT is the foundation of the church.

Now lets consider “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. It was given to Peter the responsibility to “open the gates of the kingdom of heaven” and we know that “the kingdom of heaven” and “the church” are synonymous. On the day of Pentecost Peter stood “with the 11” and delivered the first Gospel message designed to establish the church on the Solid Rock. He preached repentance and baptism as essential to salvation. This message was preached to the descendants of Abraham by the flesh, with ramifications to all people everywhere. BUT the jewish people were set in their belief that they were the only ones who could be saved, not realizing that the pact with Abraham included blessings to ALL peoples everywhere. (see Galatians and Hebrews which clarify many points on this matter)

So it wasn’t until Peter arrived in Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit and it wasn’t until he saw the gentiles receive the Spirit that he was firmly convinced that even THEY were allowed to enter the kingdom – being uncircumcised (although this point had to be made over and over later in history).

We see, then, that through the apostles Jesus established His church on the day of Pentecost, 30 A.D.. Later on He confirmed that even those mongrel Samaritans (as seen by the Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere) and even those “unclean Gentiles” were to form part of His holy people. But the story doesn’t end here…

To be continued…

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 1

What do you believe? A valid question, and one that SHOULD be approached seriously by anyone who seeks the truth. Also, WHO do you believe? Another important question that should make us stop and consider the source of what we believe.

Recently I was approached on FB by someone who knew my grandparents way back in the 20th Century. This person inquired as to my beliefs and I shared with them some of the scriptures relating to the importance of baptism in the salvation of a believer. Now, I realize that this can be a “controversial subject” and folks have even argued it “to the knife”. But I’d rather allow the Bible to guide me rather than the arguments of folks who claim that their interpretation of the Bible is more valid than the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

As we approach the matter we are faced with two important indicators of what the Bible teaches on the subject. What Jesus and His apostles taught on the matter and what the apostles actually DID. So begins a series of posts on the subject as we consider these two approaches to the subject: “Is baptism vital to the salvation process?”

So, what did Jesus Himself say on the matter?

When Nicodemus went to visit Jesus, he was told “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 – CSB) and “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) I’ve read and heard all kinds of “reasons” why this OBVIOUSLY couldn’t mean that Jesus was talking about baptism – yet a careful look at other scriptures gives us a very convincing argument in favor of this being exactly what Jesus is referring to.

In Matthew 28:19 in the “Great Commission”, Jesus told His disciples “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (DO read context of all scriptures used, and note that there is a LOT more to be learned from these passages if one is a seeker after truth.) Again, in the Mark 16 account of the ascension and Great Commission, we read Jesus’s words as He said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” It fascinates me no end to see the mental gymnastics that people go to in order to “prove” that Jesus didn’t REALLY mean what Jesus Himself said – because it does not match up with their theology that is typically based on theologians who came along well over a millennium after Jesus established His church on earth.

So, one must be born again, of the water and the Spirit. One must become a disciple, being baptized. If one believes and is baptized one is saved, but unbelief leads to condemnation. (and why be baptized if you don’t believe? and why NOT obey and be baptized if you DO believe?) These are the clear and simple reading of Jesus’ words.

So, what about the “thief on the cross”? This is tossed out as an “Aha!!!” type argument. “Gotcha! See? No baptism and yet he was saved!”. Well, what about Able? What about Abraham? What about Moses, Joshua, Caleb, David, etc, etc, etc? None of them were baptized either – or were they? Moses, Joshua and Caleb WERE all baptized, and so was Noah. (see I Corinthians 10:1-5 and I Peter 3:20-21) But let’s get back to the thief on the cross. When reading the Bible we need to ask, “Who’s talking?’ “To whom? ” “What is the context (immediate, in the same book, same testament, historical, etc)?” In this case we see Jesus talking to a ‘son of Israel’ (under the mosaic pact), BEFORE Jesus died, BEFORE Jesus resurrected, BEFORE He returned to the Father, BEFORE His church was established on the day of Pentecost. Why is all this important? Because essentially that man was one of the last to be saved through faith in the COMING sacrifice of the Lamb and His victory over death. He was by no means the first of the new pact as it had not been ratified by the death and resurrection of The Lamb.

Jesus’ message from the beginning of His ministry was simple, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance is central to the Gospel message. And the thief on the cross repented, as we can plainly see by reading the different accounts of the crucifixion. He went from mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32) to asking Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. (Luke 23:39-43). So we see a man who was raised under The Law come to repentance and faith in Jesus, even as the Mosaic Law was about to be consummated by the death of The Lamb of God.

To be continued…

The Bible Vs Popular Christianity – Part 2

An Interesting Observation

…according to the religion duly registered in their pay books, a majority belonged to the Church of England, with Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists following in order of numbers, also one Jew and one Atheist; none of them, however, as far as I could find out, had any strength at all of religious feeling; neither in behaviour nor in argument did anyone ever display any interest in matters of faith. They were not ignorant, for they all had had a religious upbringing, but so completely unconcerned that they could not legitimately be described as Christians.

Peniakoff DSO MC, Lt.-Col. Vladimir. Popski’s Private Army (p. 499). Lucknow Books. Kindle Edition.

The quote above is from “Popski’s Private Army”, a book about the adventures of one Vladimir Peniakoff and the “private army” that he raised and fought with against the Axis powers during the second world war. Recently I read the book for the second time and this quote stuck out to me. It is from a place in the book where he was reminiscing about the kind of men that made up his unit. Just previous to this quote he was talking about their political outlook, but then he drifts into his observation about their religious outlook, which independent of their upbringing did not seem to impact their daily lives very much – if at all.

This lead me to consider how his observations are valid when considering the majority of “Christian” peoples today. His comment, “They were not ignorant, for they all had had a religious upbringing, but so completely unconcerned that they could not legitimately be described as Christians.” rings true for many today, with the clarification that many ARE ignorant, for the level of religious teaching in most homes and churches today is far less than in the days in which the members of PPA were raised.

Unfortunately, the concept of living daily for Christ and of not allowing the world to direct our thoughts has been lost on most of the current generation of people who are called “Christian”, but who do not live out their supposed convictions.

Romans 12:1-2 really needs to be taught to our people, and not by rote but by deed, example AND by word. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

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